Noritaka Minami, A706 (Wall I), 2011; archival pigment print mounted on aluminum; 30 x 38 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Kearny Street Workshop, San Francisco.

Humans are resilient. Our anatomy is extraordinary and highly complex. We build, construct, destroy, and synthesize. But human nature involves understanding the biology and mechanisms that provoke us to move and accelerate. In Movement in Many Parts, an exhibition curated by Lucy Seena K. Lin and Weston Teruya, artists investigate human evolution through nature and industry. Their ruminations are shown through organic forms, moving image, photography, drawing, and painting. Each work reminds us of the adage that the totality of many things in concert is far greater than one single part of the whole.

In A1007 (Wall II) (2011), Noritaka Minami asks us to peer into the modular housing built within the Japanese urban landscape. At the start of the series, a viewer is let into a small room with a single, large round window that looks out onto the city and other pods. There is no returning gaze; a viewer sees only the disheveled room of a seemingly busy city dweller. The room could very well be a viewer’s; the window is the only way to see outside and to observe other living things. Stagnancy is apparent through the dull colors of bed sheets and the aging, disintegrating papers on the wall. Even the dated typography of the numbers on the clock suggests a thick layer of dust has settled over things untouched. The scene gives the sense that the busyness of city life has depleted the weary soul that inhabits this space. Minami’sTower (Facade 1) (2011) includes a segment of the exterior architecture that gives a viewer not only a sense of scale but also of how nature has weathered the building’s exterior. The erosion suggests that the original design is obsolete in this fast-paced environment.

While Minami’s photographs depict an environment, Kim Anno’s photographs ponder the effects of climate change and demonstrate how humans may adapt to and work with rising sea levels. Men and Women in Water Cities (2011) shows individuals fully clothed in suits and corporate attire turning their bodies toward a viewer, as though caught in mid-action. The picture plane presents something absurd. Yet, is it as absurd as we think? Anno proposes peculiar but perhaps ingenious ways we might survive despite nature’s disposition, showing what humans may be driven to do when it is necessary to endure. It is this human tendency toward movement that forces resiliency.

Originally posted to Shotgun Reviews on Art Practical, please click here to view.

Johanna Poethig
Johanna Poethig, Artist Feature in Asterisk SF Magazine

Imagine a bright-blue-eyed four-month-old baby girl traveling with missionaries to the Philippines. Picture her growing up and attending an alternative school in Manila filled with many friends who encourage her to engage in the vibrant art community. In her teenage years, she returns to the United States to learn as much about muralism as possible in Chicago, later venturing to the West Coast and settling in the Bay Area. Now, this is not romanticized fiction. It is the colorful and extraordinary life of artist Johanna Poethig. With over 25 years of experience spanning public art projects, murals, installation, performance and video, Poethig remains a prominent female figure in contemporary muralism.

During her early adult years spent in Chicago, she was inspired and mentored by well-known muralist William Walker. After spending time learning about the history and significance of muralism, Poethig was determined to make a career of the discipline. She thought back to her days in Manila and yearned for familiarity; her desire to reach a larger Filipino community is actually what brought her to the Bay Area. But over the years, she faced setbacks. Among these challenges, she was forced to navigate building permits and policies, changes in building ownership, and even her murals being painted over.

Yet Poethig remained determined to create artworks in public space. “I always saw mural practice as a way to do community art or social practice. You have these huge canvases! Not only is it a way to do something for a community, but it is fun as a painter to learn about history and to put it out there for the people,” she says. Despite teachers and professors discouraging her from becoming a muralist, she was steadfast in her passion and knew that San Francisco’s strong mural movement would help solidify her goals. One of the most interesting aspects of murals is the unpredictable nature and politics that go into their conservation and preservation. New media efforts are constantly being developed to address digitization of public artworks. As Poethig explains, “There’s nothing that takes away from the material and paint, but new technologies are new technologies, and I’m grateful that there is a solution to preserving the image and the idea of the image. … If it’s a new-media projection, it’s a good thing. It’s all about occupation of public space and who is going to occupy it.“

“In my mind, being a muralist is extremely important to do. Otherwise, all of our big spaceswould be taken up by advertising, and that would be a travesty to have all of our big, best walls in the city be advertisements. The more public space where creative artistic images can be placed, where the space is not about commodity, consumerism or trying to sell you something, is a victory but it’s difficult to do.”

Art in public space is not just a physical marker. It places an individual within a specific location and provides a rich context of the environment, the people and the culture within that space. On sunny days, native San Franciscans and tourists alike flock to the vibrant murals of the Mission District, yet many historic and iconic public works—from the I-Hotel mural in North Beach to the Statue of Liberty mural on the side of the South of Market Multi-Service Center—tell the stories of San Francisco history. Poethig’s work tells these stories of San Francisco history, proving her continued importance in the Bay Area mural and visual arts movement. Her work speaks fervently about what it means to actually be present and aware of one’s community. It encapsulates a strong desire to draw, quite literally, people into public space in a way that makes them question their experiences and reflect on their own histories.

Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here to view

Artist Feature on Jonathan Barcan in Asterisk SF Magazine

At Workspace Studios off Folsom Street, visitors can expect a breathy climb up brick-colored stairs to a maze of artist studios. One of those studios belongs to artist Jonathan Barcan, who during a studio visit shared insights on his printmaking, drawing and painting practice. In looking at his work, it is easy to see the precision that goes into his etchings and prints as well as the experimentation and the unpredictability of materials in his drawings and paintings. Organic materials such as wine, spices, sand and metal form beautifully articulated lines and figures. Although his Master of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo afforded him opportunities to exhibit work in Philadelphia, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto, and Florence, San Francisco is home.

Using physics, science, the natural world, and the notion of the human soul as inspirations for his art, Barcan has a highly meditative quality to his work. His prints serve as observations of and responses to our contemporary world, combining older technologies such as printmaking with more modern sciences and digital advances, all in an effort to identify people’s relationships to society and culture. As a longtime printmaker, Barcan works diligently toward understanding the unexpected nature of the craft and its medium. Working with acids and metal surfaces is no simple task, yet his works comprise natural lines, organic forms, and fluid motions that seem impossible to replicate. From colorful to monochromatic pieces, his work envelops the viewer in an imaginary space where words are unable to express the breadth of the human experience.

“We are clearly becoming other types of people because of the rapid rate of technological progression. We understand information and the substance of a person so much differently than we did 100 years ago,” says Barcan.

His specific visual language includes erratic, bold, non-tentative lines that aim at investigating human intricacies and understanding humanity at the intersections of art, technology, and science. Despite the depth of content, his images become familiar and accessible to the viewer. “It’s seductive,” he says of drawing. “It is so important for me to show the artist’s hand in my work. I like the messiness. When fingerprints and dirt on the paper show, there is a history. There’s also a tension in the drawings. I also like to observe people. For me, the drawings are the easiest way for me to communicate my observations. It’s immediate, in some ways. But the seductive quality comes from convincing people the work is immediate, but that’s not true. There is a lot of work and rework that takes time. The seductive part also comes from how people project how I make these things and me knowing the actuality of the creation.” His work is dynamic, connected and provocative. It inspires introspection in its dealings with the separation, integration and presence of the soul or the self within society and culture. With the swarm of interactive devices, data streams and codes that riddle our transactions, books, magazines and billboards, the artist and his physical work are rare but imperative. Despite the multiplicity of subjects in Barcan’s work, each is unique, much like the smudges and fingerprints of the artist’s hand. His work serves as a meditation, both on how we live and what we choose to leave behind.

Originally published and posted to Asterisk SF Magazine, please click here to view

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Please pardon the photography. I took these photos on my phone and didn’t want to wait too long to post a few of my favorites from Open Studios this weekend. I highly encourage visiting their sites and taking a look around. Obviously, their work is so much better in person but these were definitely some of the pieces I enjoyed. Click on the artist’s name to learn more about them: Diane Komater, Jonathan Barcan, and Sonya Philip

Click on the image above to view the article on Asterisk SF

Painting requires the artist to solve problems both physical and mental. It requires patience, a keen awareness of traditional elements, a deft understanding of color, and a mastery of composition so that the viewer’s eyes move fluidly and effortlessly through the subject and its environment. From abstraction to photo-realism, a well-executed painting offers visual stimulation that persists and warrants multiple investigations. Within the discipline, the female nude remains a perennial subject matter. Its ubiquity is unlikely to diminish, even in this digitally laden age. The painter Aaron Nagel pushes and commands the oils on his canvas in such a way that flesh appears supple and soft to the touch. Although female subjects dominate his work, all seem vigilant and aware of the viewer’s gaze. Deriving much of his learning and inspiration from old Masters such as Caravaggio with a deep admiration for contemporaries such as Jenny Saville and Kent Williams, Nagel uses the innovations of these artists as inspiration in pushing his technical skills.

Nagel’s technique methodically converges colors to create the perfect highlight or shadow on his figures. His bravado with the paintbrush is an admirable quality along with his commitment to painting what he believes is aesthetically pleasing and the work welcomes a multitude of complex interpretations. In “Blue Blood II,” the viewer’s attention is drawn to composition as the subject is placed in an unorthodox position. The blue blood that flows from the stigmata wound seems to drip off the canvas. That drop of blood hangs precariously from the tip of the left shoulder, flowing extraordinarily against the skin and guiding the eyes to the arch of the neck and lean of the body.  Another noteworthy painting is “Senza Pieta,” Nagel’s rendition of French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1876 work, “Pieta.” This painting suggests the Artist’s desire to summons an overt challenge to his practice, which usually involves a sole female subject. A consistent visual theme of women set against black backgrounds allows for sheer focus and a regal stillness. Black paint is another constant throughout his work: delicately painted against the body and hands as shown in “The Calming”  which proves to be an exercise in capturing the brilliance of light reflected onto a subject. Such high contrast elements display Nagel’s painstaking attention to detail. Similar to “Senza,” the absence of an environment in “Shrapnel” mimics a body under siege. The pushing of the right foot slightly above the left calf — working in tandem with the hunched, crouched position of the figure — provides the perfect balance of depth and perspective.

The rich tones and stoic posturing, along with the re-contextualization of catholic imagery in his latest series, show his depth and desire to evolve. Future works offer promising and deeper explorations into coloration and light that I’m certain will leave a mark of precision on the canvas. Brimming with talent, an unrelenting art practice, and constant study, Nagel’s burgeoning career as a figurative painter is on the cusp of even more challenging and thought provoking work.

Published to Asterisk SF Magazine – Volume 2 Issue 2